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Missouri public schools, particularly those in rural areas, often have a hard time finding teachers in highly specific areas, like physics or foreign languages. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson reports on a Springfield-based program designed to meet that need.
[Sound: instructor’s voice in workshop]
On a cold, winter evening, about 15 adults have gathered in a basement classroom on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus. Some have driven from the small, rural towns of Gainesville and Caulfield. Over croissant sandwiches, they go around the room introducing themselves. They all have one thing in common: they already have bachelor’s degrees.
[Sound: “I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice…”]
One woman has a degree in chemistry and worked in alcohol and drug counseling for years.
The state of Missouri is working with Missouri State University on a program that allows people like these to get a Master’s Degree and teacher certification at the same time.
Dr. Steve Hinch with MSU’s College of Education says this event is basically a recruitment fair for the MAT program.
“The program is Master of Arts in Teaching. It’s designed for those individuals who have been out of college—they’ve got their degree. They’ve been out in the private sector for five, or 10, or 15 years, seeking fame and fortune. But sometimes things don’t work out like you planned. And perhaps there’s an opportunity to get into teaching,” Hinch said.
The program accelerates the path into teaching. Students can get their teacher certification within four semesters’ time.
“They’re looking for folks who might be able to bring in other life experiences—bring in a maturity level that a typical undergrad, who might be coming in at 22 or 23 years of age, doesn’t exist,” Hinch said.
For example, he recalls one candidate was working as a field biologist in the Department of Natural Resources, but lost her job when the economy tanked. Now, he says, she’s a beloved biology teacher in a small town because of the MAT program.
Since the candidate pool is much more shallow in rural areas, the MAT program allows schools to tap into a wider spectrum of potential teachers.
The MAT program is approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE. Again, Dr. Steve Hinch.
“It’s really a four-party contract: the school district wants to hire you. Obviously, you want the job. You must be in a teacher education program, such as ours. And then, the state will say, ‘Okay,’” Hinch said.
And in some cases, Hinch says, the state allows a person who is in the program to teach on a provisional basis for a year or sometimes two while he or she is still working on certification.
Teachers who go through the program also enter the workforce at a higher pay level, since they have their Master’s Degrees.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.